‘Tabloid pin-up’ is a phrase more often linked to fresh-faced Instagram stars than sun-bathing septuagenarians. Yet there Charles Dance was this week, emerging from the Venetian sea like a bronzed, retired Bond, setting the internet ablaze.
Double-O 73’s trip to the Italian coast went viral in part due to Dance’s chiselled, age-defying physique (he somehow looks younger now than he did more than a decade ago); but also the mystery pal photographed on his arm. This click-friendly combination reminded the world that, even in these fraught times, you can guarantee a few things in life. Death, taxes, and Charles Dance’s everlasting sex appeal.
So, with the actor approaching his mid-70s, yet neither his abs nor his magnetism showing any sign of stopping, we ask: what’s the secret to his longevity?
The 007 comparison is actually quite fitting. Not only did Dance appear as a villain in For Your Eyes Only, he once turned down the chance to play Bond. He was offered an audition following his breakout role in 1984’s Jewel in the Crown, but Dance rejected the invitation. Why? In case he didn’t get it. “Also, my hair was quite ginger,” he said in 2018. “I thought, ‘Nah, you can’t have a ginger Bond’."
Bond aside, Dance’s career is as long as it storied. Best known in recent years for his role as Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones, his CV spans 50-years, and he’s scarcely been without work since his first role – as Badger in a stage version of Toad of Toad Hall – in 1971.
Maybe Dance’s strength is embracing variety, and not taking himself too seriously. His CV is steeped in drama – The Crown, Phantom of the Opera and The Imitation Game all feature alongside GoT – but also camp action and comedy.
To a certain demographic, he’s less known for Bleak House, more Ali G Indahouse. And who can forget Dance squaring off against Schwarzenegger in Last Action Hero? Or his regular gig reading trashy memoirs on Channel 4’s The Big Fat Quiz?
Elsewhere, gamers know his silky tones from The Witcher 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Dance is also becoming a documentary mainstay, and while his work as a narrator is not yet Attenborough-grade, he is twice Emmy-nominated for the Nat Geo series, Savage Kingdom.
No one really wants the Fountain of Youth to spring from clean living and exercise – it’s boring. But it’s the most logical reason for Dance’s ageless exterior. A keen swimmer, yogi and cyclist, he claims to have never used soap on his face (“It’s very drying”).
But here's the killer line, for anyone who aspired to dance into their 70s like Charles: he broadly shuns alcohol. “I don’t drink very much,” Dance has said, “principally because it makes me go to sleep.”
Dance’s beach pal joins a long line of love interests. Since his divorce from the sculptor, Joanna Haythorn (with whom he has a son, 45, and a daughter, 40) in 2004, he has earned a reputation as something of a latter-day Casanova.
Dance had a brief relationship with Sophia Myles – an actress (Thunderbirds, Transformers: Age of Extinction) then in her 20s – who he reportedly told was the love of his life. Dance ended things abruptly, leading Myles’s friends to accuse him of acting “cruelly and bizarrely”.
Dance later dated ex-Gucci model, Shambala Marthe, and was briefly engaged to the artist, Eleanor Boorman. They had a daughter, Rose, in 2012, but parted ways soon after.
For his part, Dance is candid about his reputation as a lothario. He once told an interviewer that “I like women, to be perfectly frank with you, I feel 35. I probably act 25.” He cites his divorce as his biggest disappointment in life, and admits he’s been accused of selfishness. When asked in an interview who he’d most like to say sorry to, he answered: “Too many people.”
And yet, for all the evidence linking Dance to women half his age, the truth might be more nuanced. After all, ask him about Judi Dench, 85, and he’ll say “It's very difficult not to fall in love with her.” Another woman who Dance appears smitten by is Nicola Sturgeon. He met the First Minister of Scotland at a commemoration of the Battle of the Somme, along with the actor, Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter, The OA). As Dance put it: “At the reception afterwards, we both looked at her and said, ‘She’s rather attractive.’ She had sex appeal.”
It takes one to know one, as they say.